The longitudinal Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study followed a representative birth cohort of 1,000 New Zealand men and women who were born in 1972-1973 to study partner violence experiences.
Researchers decided to study partner violence as part of the longitudinal study because they suspected that some study members continued antisocial activities into adulthood in a form not well represented by measures of delinquent behavior. Questions on physical and psychological abuse were included in interviews to determine the extent of partner violence. Although both partners in a relationship did not always recall the same acts in precisely the same way, there was 70 to 80 percent agreement on whether physical violence occurred and on the extent of abuse. Risk factors in childhood and adolescence for male perpetrators of violence included poverty and low academic achievement. Female perpetrators of violence showed risk factors of harsh family discipline and parental strife. Both male and female perpetrators also had histories of aggressive behavior. The strongest risk factor for both male and female perpetrators and victims was a record of physically aggressive delinquent offending before 15 years of age. More than half the males convicted of a violent crime also physically abused their partners. About 27 percent of women and 34 percent of men reported that they had been physically abused by their partner. About 37 percent of women and 22 percent of men said they had perpetrated the violence. About 65 percent of females who suffered serious physical abuse and 88 percent male perpetrators had one or more mental disorders. Women who had children by 21 years of age were twice as likely as non-mothers to be victims of domestic violence. Men who had fathered children by 21 years of age were more than three as likely as non-fathers to be perpetrators of abuse. Implications of the findings for professional concerned with violence prevention are discussed. 19 notes, 1 table, and 8 exhibits
Date Published: July 1, 1999
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